What Do the Titanic, Bismarck, and Big Oil Have in Common?

Written By Alex Koyfman

Posted March 31, 2016

When the RMS Titanic sank in the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, it passed into history as the most famous and most tragic maritime disaster of all time.

It’s a story immortalized in books and movies, and it will without a doubt remain an intimate snapshot of mankind for countless future generations to examine.

Which makes it a bit of a surprise that one of the most important aspects of the story isn’t common knowledge at all.

Relatively few people realize that after the Titanic slipped beneath the waves at 2:20 on that April morning, it wouldn’t be seen again by human eyes for 73 years.


Lost under almost two and a half miles of north Atlantic, it wasn’t until September of 1985 that its location was confirmed and images of the submerged hulk made headlines around the world.

At the heart of the expedition to find the famous wreck were three key elements.

Man, Machine, and Mission

The first was the famous Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a non-profit organization founded in the 1930s and dedicated to the study of marine science in all of its aspects.


It was their ship, the R/V Knorr, and the second of the three items, an underwater submersible called “Argo,” that were instrumental in locating and then exploring the site.


The third and most critical element was Dr. Robert Ballard, the leader of the expedition, whose skill and eight years of patience brought the elements together.


When the Titanic was found, it stirred the imaginations of millions across the world, and not just because the famous ship had finally been brought back into the public eye.

It was also the first major public demonstration of a new technology: underwater robotics.

The Argo, which Dr. Ballard had developed through the Woods Hole Deep Submergence Laboratory, represented a leap forward in remotely operated submersibles and was designed to dive to depths of up to 20,000 feet — or more than 60% deeper than the Titanic’s final resting place.

With its camera and integral lighting system and ability to withstand pressures of four tons per square inch, the relatively compact Argo could go into places too small for manned submersibles and simply inaccessible to any diver.

Less than four years after helping to find and explore the Titanic, the same three elements — Woods Hole, Argo, and Dr. Ballard — repeated this incredible feat when an expedition to find another legendary ship also hit its mark.

Lightning Strikes Twice

In 1989, the German battleship Bismarck, which had been sunk in 1941 by the Royal Navy, was found sitting upright, just as she had on the surface, at a depth of 15,700 feet — half a mile deeper than the Titanic.


Once again, it was a discovery that was made possible only thanks to the availability of undersea robotics.

So it’s no surprise that today, more than a quarter century later, Woods Hole is still on the forefront of this technology — a technology that has made incredible strides since its early-generation examples started making headlines.

A Technology Hits its Stride

Just a few weeks ago, in fact, Woods Hole made news again when it awarded a small sonar and underwater robotics company a sizable contract for some next-generation underwater scanning systems.

This same company, whose underwater imaging systems are leading the industry right now, is in the process of enlarging its product line to include fully functional autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).

For those who found the technology of 30 years ago impressive, what this company has in the works today is outright science fiction.

Capable of diving deeper and remaining on their own for extended periods of time, this new generation of underwater robots is already being eyed by the U.S. government for its next line of defense against clandestine submerged threats like naval mines and miniature submarines, like the tiny and nearly silent Iranian “Ghadir,” pictured below.


But with so much still unknown about the world’s oceans, the list of applications for this new generation of AUVs continues to grow.

Right now, Big Oil corporations like Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) and ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP), not to mention just about every other major oil producer in the world, are looking for offshore oil deposits.

The main reason: conventional deposits are running dry, and the futures of these companies with them.

With the caliber of underwater sensing and artificial intelligence this company can bring to undersea oil exploration, intense interest from Big Oil will drive demand for this technology even further.

The company is small and young, but it’s positioned today where few tech firms have been.

Get the full story on who they are and exactly what their amazing products are already doing.

Click here.

Fortune favors the bold,

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Alex Koyfman

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